As a teenager, I devoured books by Dr Paul
Brand. This Australian doctor served for two years in
Africa. Afterwards, he published many books about "the jungle
doctor", targeting a young readership.
Ever since my wife, Tina, and I met in high
school 37 years ago, we wanted to spend our entire life as doctors
in a third-world country.
Diospi Suyana means "We trust in God" in the
Quechua language. Our book I Have Seen
God is the story of how we founded a modern hospital in
I'm a general surgeon. I was trained in
Germany, England, and America. My final year as a student I
finished at Harvard University, and from 1991 until 1993 I was a
surgical resident at Yale. Martina is a paediatrician and runs the
hospital while I am away, because I am travelling six months of the
year. She doesn't help me - I help her. She works a 70-to-80 hour
week, and takes night calls and does all the emails at night.
In 1991, my wife and I visited Peru as
backpackers. We saw the great medical needs among the
Quechua people, and decided to do something about it.
God has become visible to us and many others as we
realised this vision, and many people and companies
contributed. The hospital depends on regular donations, because the
patients pay only 20 per cent of the annual budget.
The Diospi Suyana Hospital is comparable to a hospital
in the UK. It is fully equipped with four operating
theatres, a five-bed ICU, 16 consulting rooms, a dental and eye
clinic, an endoscopy suite, and a physiotherapy department. The
X-ray unit also has a brand new CT scanner. The Peruvian President,
Ollanta Humala, declared: "It is the best hospital in the south of
Peru," after his recent visit to us. In the ten years of its
existence it has treated 125,000 patients.
I don't practise as a surgeon, now that I am
the medical director - though I run the gastroscopies and
colonoscopies when I am there. My vision has broadened, because I
reach so many people with the story. I sometimes miss surgery: when
I was working in Ecuador for five years, I loved doing C-sections
and hysterectomies. I was passionate about it. But now I'm much
more productive: through the hospital we can reach thousands of
patients, but 20 million people in Germany alone have heard the
Diospi Suyana is probably the most modern mission
hospital in the world, but the story has become even more
important. We can share it with anybody. For instance, last year, I
was invited to give an international lecture in paediatric surgery
which was attended by Muslims, Jews - and atheists, of course. God
has written a script that is so beautiful that many doctors have
said to me: "I used to be an atheist, but don't know how God did
this." Many have become committed Christians.
The story comes directly out of my heart - it's
my life. All my life I was leading youth groups and talking to
schools; so I'm used to telling it. I always thought that faith in
God is the best thing there is on this globe; so I prayed that I
would write it down well.
Faith in God has never been easy for me. For
many years, I was hoping to see God in action in my life. Over the
past 20 years, many miracles have happened that even atheists can't
explain. I speak at companies and churches, talk to the media.
Since 2004, I am on the road six months every year. So far, I have
given approximately 1900 talks in 19 different countries. I don't
ask for money, just share the story. People think about God, and
because many people join us, companies decide to help us, and we
are spreading the gospel to people who never go to church.
The first 30 missionaries in 2007 were Germans,
with two exceptions, but now we have 55 from 12 different
countries. We speak Spanish at the hospital. Because of Christ, in
our team it's quite peaceful. We have formed many friendships,
telling the world God is real.
We've had two British medical students from Cardiff and
Hull, and I've just been to give presentations at their
churches. I hope we get more doctors, nurses, teachers,
administrators. We have just opened a modern school. I also met
Professor [Sir Eldryd] Parry, whom we met 31 years ago in Ghana. He
was very important in our lives. We were so shocked by what we saw
in Ghana - such disrespect for human life - that we were about to
abandon our vision. But we stayed a night with him, and were so
moved by him that we realised we had to become missionaries, no
matter what. He's 84 now, still active, still coaching young
I will come again next March to speak at Spring Harvest,
I hope, and would be willing to speak in churches and
schools; and people can invite their friends. We are always looking
for people in many professions to join us.
Ideally, they would come for their whole life.
But they mostly come for three years, with six months at language
school first if they need to learn Spanish. My wife and I want to
be there till we die. It never occurs to us to go back to
We have three children, born on three
continents: Natalie was born in South Africa, Dominik in
Germany, Florian in Ecuador. Home for them is Mum and Dad. Natalie
is volunteering in a Christian orphanage in South Africa and will
study medicine; Dominik is thinking about medicine; and Florian
wants to be a multimillionaire.
There is a secret to my energy. I was brought
up in a Baptist church, but I had lots of friends who were
atheists, and we had endless discussions. Is faith real or just
wishful thinking? Later in life, I was afraid of dying. Headache -
brain tumour? Spot on my skin - cancer? I was desperate to find out
if there was life after death. Now, God has become visible in my
life. It's good news, and God gives me energy.
I am the fourth child of a baker in Wiesbaden.
My parents were committed Christians. From my earliest childhood
on, we learnt to work very hard.
I like to play chess, and to go running.
My wife's voice is my favourite sound. Her
voice most attracted to me to her.
I pray that I will do the will of God.
We have very few holidays. I always like to be
where my wife is: I love to come back to Peru with her, but, if she
is in Germany, I love to be with her there. I haven't seen my wife
for five years, when you add up all the time I was away. If I was
locked in a church, I would choose her to be my companion.
Dr Klaus-Dieter John was talking to Terence Handley
MacMath. I Have Seen God is published by
Monarch/LionHudson at £8.99 (CT Bookshop